Where fine wine and flap­pers col­lide

Let's Travel - - NEW ZEALAND - By Me­gan Sin­gle­ton

On Tues­day morn­ing Fe­bru­ary 3rd 1931, Gor­don Am­ner was in the pad­dock of the Napier farm he worked on. He was 16 years old and in charge while his boss was on hol­i­day. Sud­denly the an­i­mals started go­ing berserk and within mo­ments the earth shook so vi­o­lently the wa­ter tanks came top­pling down.

“There was a ter­rific roar, the ground was shak­ing. You couldn’t stand up,” he re­called as an old man just a few years ago, be­fore he passed away. “Cat­tle were rolling down the hills. The boul­ders were com­ing down. I thought it was the end of the world.”

He got to the top of the farm think­ing there might be a tidal wave but in­stead saw the sea re­treat leav­ing rocks un­cov­ered where he used to go sail­ing. Fish of ev­ery kind were flap­ping on the ground.

Forty square kilo­me­tres of land was thrust out of the sea in Ahuriri that day, ris­ing over two me­tres…like a scene out of a bi­b­li­cal re-en­act­ment. Napier Air­port now sits on this land re­claimed by the forces of na­ture.

Af­ter an ag­o­nis­ing two and a half min­utes shak­ing, that seemed to last for­ever, he saw smoke bil­low­ing from Napier City as the 7.8 mag­ni­tude quake shook Hawke’s Bay to the core.

“Napier has been wiped off the map,” shouted the Do­min­ion Post, as nearly all the build­ings in Napier and nearby Hast­ings were flat­tened.

The nurs­ing home on Napier Hill col­lapsed killing half the staff sleep­ing af­ter night shift. Depart­ment store roofs fell in. Fires broke out but the wa­ter mains were de­stroyed and as the wind came up, many people who didn’t die in the crum­bled build­ings lost their lives in the fires. The death toll was 256 and the Napier earthquake re­mains New Zealand’s worst nat­u­ral dis­as­ter.

But out of the ashes and the af­ter­shocks, the people of the city be­gan to rebuild. The sound of ma­chin­ery over the next two to three years be­came the sound of hope.

The four ar­chi­tect firms in Napier banded to­gether shar­ing premises to draw up the new city. Favour­ing the era’s fash­ion­able art deco, Span­ish mis­sion and Frank Lloyd Wright de­signs, in three years Napier was the new­est and most mod­ern city on the globe.

Im­ages of light­ning flashes, speed lines, zig-zags and sun rays were etched into walls and pressed into the un­der­side of the metal awnings lin­ing the streets. Lead light glaz­ing was used on the win­dows and mo­saic tiled street names set into the foot­path on each street cor­ner.

Neon light­ing was an ex­cit­ing ad­di­tion to the 1930’s night and the orig­i­nal neon lights are still used in the Mu­nic­i­pal Theatre to­day. Even the car­pet, re­placed due to wear, has been re-wo­ven to the orig­i­nal de­sign.

For the past 25 years, the iconic an­nual Tre­mains Art Deco Weekend held each Fe­bru­ary sees the city aflut­ter with feather boas, bowler hats and jazz mu­sic. Sleek vin­tage cars roll into town and el­e­gantly at­tired ladies and snap­pily dressed gents spill onto Napier’s 21st century streets.

There are more than 200 events at­tract­ing 40,000 people who come from all over the world dressed to the nines in fox­trot and flap­per out­fits to cel­e­brate the ar­chi­tec­ture and style that emerged like a phoenix out of the ru­ins of the 1931 earthquake.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.